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Vowels 16 and 18, /əʊ/ versus /ɪə/    77 pairs      

The /əʊ/ diphthong is spelled in many ways including <oCe>, <oe>, <oa>, <ow>, <eau> in beau, and occurs in the letter name O. The /ɪə/ diphthong is spelled <ear>, <eer> or <ie>, and <eir> in weir.

This is a contrast between two diphthongs with different starting positions and direction of movement. It is not a problem for any learner.

Interesting pairs include:

corrode careered
oppose appears

Perhaps the best-known appearance of one of these pairs is in the song in My Fair Lady, "Doe a deer, a female deer".

The density figure is 1.91%. The set makes 44 semantic contrasts giving a loading of 57.1%.

arose arrears
beau beer
  beaux beers
beau bier
  beaux biers
bow beer
  bows beers
bow bier
  bows biers      
bode beard 
  boded bearded 
  bodes beards 
  boding bearding 
chose cheers 
close clears 
corrode careered 
doe	dear
  does dears 
doe deer  
dough dear
dough deer
foe fear
  foes fears 
go gear
  goes gears 
goad geared 
hoe hear
  hoes hears 
know near
  knows nears
load leered 
loan lien 
  loans liens 
low leer
  lows leers 
mow mere
  mows meres 
no near
node neared 
oppose appears 	 
O ear
  O's ears
pose peers 
post pierced 
r´┐Żle real
  road reared
roe rhea 	
  roes rheas
roe rear
  roes rears
rose rears
sew sear
  sewed seared 
  sews sears 
so sear
sow sear
  sowed seared 
  sows sears 
show shear  
  showed sheared 
  shows shears 
show sheer  
sow sneer
  snowed sneered 
  snows sneers 
Spode speared
stow steer
  stowed steered 
  stows steers 
toe tear
  toes tears 
tow tear
  tows tears  
unroll unreal 
woad weird 
woe weir
  woes weirs 

Credit: John Higgins